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The Milwaukee Bucks have discovered that big man Bobby Portis will miss multiple weeks with a right knee injury.
Portis suffered the injury against the Detroit Pistons when an opponent fell into his right knee. Portis seemed unfazed by the incident and finished the game without any complications. He underwent testing the next day, which indicated an MCL sprain.
Losing Portis is a huge blow because the backup center and part-time starter averages a double-double every game with 14.4 points and 10.8 rebounds per game.
Portis is a valuable part of the Bucks’ rotation off the bench. But he’s also been highly effective as a starter on nights when power forward Giannis “Greek Freak” Antetokounmpo or center Brook Lopez need a night off because of injuries or load management.
Banged-Up Bucks Currently the #3 Seed
The Bucks have been challenged with injuries to key players all season. But the resilient team always seems to find a way to win, even when the squad isn’t at full strength.
The banged-up Bucks have a 31-17 record and are in third place in the Eastern Conference standings. They trail the first-place Boston Celtics (35-14) by three games and are only behind the second-place Philadelphia 76ers (31-16) by a half of a game.
The Bucks are +800 odds to win the 2022-23 NBA championship as third cofavorites with the Denver Nuggets on the DraftKings’ futures board. In Eastern Conference odds, the Bucks are third on the board at +390.
The Bucks are in first place in the Central Division with a 2.5-game lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers (29-20). It’s a two-way race to win the Central Division, and the Bucks are favorites at -280 odds to win it for a fifth season in a row.
The Bucks saw their chance to win back-to-back NBA championships crumble when they lost small forward Khris Middleton to a knee injury in the first round of the 2022 NBA playoffs. Without Middleton in the lineup, the Boston Celtics eliminated the Bucks in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Middleton saw his season debut delayed while he recovered from wrist surgery. He also missed multiple games with a sore knee. The Bucks somehow figured out how to win as a short-handed squad. Defense is what they rely on to keep games close, and then they just let Antetokounmpo do his thing in the fourth quarter. It’s been a simple formula, but Portis was an important element to the Bucks’ success this season.
Bucks Hope Portis Fully Returns by Playoffs
Brook Lopez is one of the best defenders in the league, and the veteran center relies on savviness and intelligence. Antetokounmpo is pure athleticism, and he’s quick enough to defend guards, and strong enough to handle big men. He can come out of anywhere to block a shot. Portis is an old-school defender who’s about sheer brawn and aggression.
Every team needs a mean dog, like a pitbull in the paint,” said Lopez. “For us, that’s Bobby.”
The holy trinity of Antetokounmpo, Lopez, and Portis meant that there was never a defensive lapse in the Bucks’ front line. That was especially the case when Portis came off the bench. Other teams weren’t able to get easy baskets when they face the second unit.
“We play hard in Milwaukee,” Portis said. “Most cities, most guys don’t really care about what we’ve got going on.”
Adding Portis in the 2020-21 season gave the Bucks a harder edge. They won the championship in his first season with the team, and his presence off the bench added depth on the front line. He’s one of the reasons the Bucks were able to win the title two seasons ago.
If the Bucks expect to go deep in the postseason and take another run at the title, they’ll need Portis to heal his knee injury by the time the playoffs begin.
“Once we’re at full strength, this team is really good,” said Antetokounmp. “There’s a lot of threats out there. People understand their roles. As long as we can stay healthy, we have a chance and that’s all you can ask for.”
On Deck: Four-Game Homestand
The Bucks leave Beer City for a single-game road trip against the Indiana Pacers on Friday night. On Sunday, they start a four-game homestand against the New Orleans Pelicans, Charlotte Hornets, Los Angeles Clippers, and Miami Heat. Three of those four teams have playoff aspirations, so the Bucks will have to bring their A-game.
In the first weekend of February, the Bucks head out west for a three-game road trip. They battle Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers, and then jet down the Pacific Coast for back-to-back games in Hollywood against the Los Angeles Lakers and LA Clippers.
The Bucks/Lakers game on February 9 has drawn significant interest from prop bettors. It’s the game in which LeBron James could break the NBA’s all-time regular season scoring record. James is on pace to break Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s record in the previous game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
However, the Lakers face two upcoming back-to-back game situations. Prop bettors are under the assumption that the 38-year-old James will sit out at least one of those back-to-back games. If that’s the case, then he could break the scoring record against the Bucks in LA.
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